It’s ready, set, hike for Utah and Cache Valley high school football this Friday night with a number of coronavirus safety measures in place for players, coaches and fans.
Will the measures prove effective enough to avoid major virus outbreaks and keep the season going?
“To be honest with you, we’re just going day by day,” said Logan High School Athletic Director Jesse Parker. “Things change by the minute, and so the best thing we can do is just continue to try the best we can with the information we’re given and try to give these kids a positive athletic experience for as long as we can, whether that’s a week or a month or a full season.”
Social distancing between fans won’t be required, per se, but the number of people in each section of the bleachers will be limited and all high schools will require masks be worn in the stands. Ticketing will be done online through each school’s website to limit lines and close interaction at ticket booths. Both students and adults will be required to obtain tickets in advance with seating assigned by section.
On the field, high school football games in the state will be played under a set of guidelines adopted by the Utah High School Athletics Association. Among other things, the guidelines call for:
• Temperature checks for all participants before arriving at a venue.
• Sanitization of footballs after each change of possession.
• Six feet of social distancing on sidelines, with it “highly recommended” that players and coaches wear masks while not in the game.
• Extended team areas along sidelines to accommodate social distancing.
• A “wave of sportsmanship” instead of handshakes after each game is concluded.
• A 50-player limit for each team.
• Travel in multiple buses to allow for appropriate social distancing.
If play in another high school sport this month is any indication, the sideline-distancing recommendation could be an early casualty. At a recent valley girls soccer game covered by The Herald Journal, no players on the sidelines wore masks and no social-distancing was in evidence.
Cheerleaders will also be taking the field Friday, but some squads are limiting away-game travel as a COVID-19 precaution.
At a Logan City School District board meeting Tuesday, LHS cheerleading coach Allison Hale explained that her squad has taken several precautions during training, such as taking temperatures and regular use of hand sanitizers, but social distancing itself is not an option during stunts.
“We’re trying to do the best we can given that we have to be close, but as the girls are rotating in and out there is a lot of disinfecting and hand sanitizing going on,” she told the board. “We will not go to the first two away games just for COVID reasons, in case on the bus for close proximity reasons someone got sick and we’d be out for two weeks.”
The stands at Cache Valley’s high school stadiums seat between 2,000 and 3,000 fans, which will keep the events well under the 6,000-person limit on gatherings in Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s yellow-level coronavirus alert, currently in effect for Cache County. Home games are scheduled Friday night at Logan High, Sky View and Mountain Crest.
“We’re excited to be able to play and hope it goes well and we can make it through the fall,” Mountain Crest Athletic Director Kevin Andersen said.
At the college level, this week brought bombshell announcements from the Mountain West, PAC-12 and Big Ten conferences that they would be indefinitely postponing all fall sports, but so far no high schools in Utah have decided to opt out of the football season or any other fall sport.
“Looks like we’re all going until someone opts us out,” Logan High’s Parker said.